The record breaking 100+ degree days in Olympia (in June no less) was an emergency where some people died from the heat. The ecological repercussions of just those two days are likely massive tree death, plant death and animal death. The summer is far from over. Along with the heat will be the continuation of what meteorologists call “atmospheric rivers” a situation we rarely had in Oly where a narrow band and intense level of rain drenches our city causing flooding. This will happen more and more every year going forward.
People call it an emergency. It’s a natural disaster that hits us hard with intense moments but drains us with constant ecological stress. Our scientists predicted it, our politicians ignored it, our children will grow up devastated because of it and the rich profited during it while causing and worsening it. It’s a local problem with limited local solutions, it’s a statewide problem with only somewhat more, it’s a national problem that the US is overwhelmingly the direct or indirect main country responsible for it and it’s an international problem that will literally take an all out human effort of cooperation.
I am not without a lot of… well… not hope… we use that term way too much and it’s rather thoughtless. Instead let me say that upon my own examining of the course of human development, of which I am in no way an expert, I see that there is a path forward that seems plausible for our society and the world to not just survive but to thrive. It will come be an uneven and messy way forward, there will be starvation, disease and war. Our lives will be forever changed but I believe that we will be more whole and fulfilled by the changes.
Nature wants us to live. Nature wants us to thrive. Nature wants us to accept our place in the world. A world where the word “waste” is banished and everything is the future nutrients of everything else. A world where we are not only individual and unique beings but at the same time the entirety of everything around us from the land, to the animals, to the plants, to the people. That we see ourselves in the moment in everything and everywhere. That this helps us in conscientious choices and awareness. That there are no externalities that we ignore but rather consequences we enthusiastically embrace in our duty to the ecosystem which includes each other.
I think that everyone can feel that calling if they take a moment to feel. I certainly do. The younger people certainly do. Many elders are at their wits end because they always have. The elders who have rang the alarm bells their whole lives of the consequences that were being ignored. Of the ecosystem destruction, the toxic chemicals, the greenhouse gases and more. As my dear friend and mentor Rick Fellows always says, “The Hippies were right!” And so they were, many of them, and so were many of the indigenous and to some degree even the true conservatives, the ones who value actually conserving and living within their means.
My environmental perspective is rooted in terms like preservation, conservation and restoration. To deal with climate change we need all of that. We need to preserve our last green spaces and farmland. We need to conserve energy, resources, built space, packaging, transit and more. We need to restore the environmental impact areas, the shoreline, our lawns into gardens and naturescapes, our forests, our soil from depletion and our water. We need to preserve, conserve and restore our culture most of all to attain the level of care and thoughtfulness that is needed to change.
Most of the solutions to climate change are here already. Some breakthroughs can help in sciences but overwhelmingly what we need is the political will to act which will help lead to future breakthroughs. It will mean changes in our diet to be overwhelmingly plant based, local and organic. It will mean housing and appliance that are energy efficient which can also be achieved by smaller dwellings and density. It will mean public transportation favored over personal vehicles be it electric or not. It will mean localizing as much as possible for food security, robust economies and less transportation needs. It will mean ending subsidies for corporate giants, oil companies and turning those subsidies towards local efforts. It will mean tens of millions or hundreds of millions of people in the US engaging in the process of securing all our local communities to survive and thrive. It will mean massive protests in the streets, direct action and direct democracy. It will mean that the rich cannot control us and we cannot emulate their sick ideas of how communities should be. It’ll look a lot like when we were sitting home the last year and the struggles we had tightening the belts and accommodating the needs of others through mutual aid.
Olympia should lead the US in combating climate change. We are one of the most well educated and most caring on the issue. We should ignore the national rhetoric, which is decades behind where we should be, and strive to be decades ahead of that. We should push further than our state leadership and call it what it is, good but not nearly good enough. We should avoid the dead end traps of personal responsibility and demand community responsibility. That the rich can’t buy an electric car and put up solar panels on their house with ease and feel good about it as if their contribution does a damn thing. Feeling saintly as the world burns? No. We must reject this.
The changes needed to survive this are not unlike the preparations and sacrifice that went into World War 2. It is even beyond that but that is the nearest reference point, which is basically a historical reference. Olympia should reach out to the world as well. We should invite people who are changing their communities to come here, not to speak, but to share on the ground their solutions. All our high schools should be pumping out climate first responders. All our retirees should be restoring the land. All our workers should be required by law to do their jobs in such a way that it preserves, conserves and restores with greater and greater efficacy. All owners of land should now be stewards. All who live on the land should now be part of it. Our actions should reverberate endlessly for the world. Everyone should hear the calling.
This is truth. This is what you do when something is an emergency. When the consequences are known to be real and when the outcome is extremely dire. In doing the above I see a beloved community at work. I see a place of joy and real hope in practice. I see no sacrifice except for the most unnatural and isolating parts of our society that should be gone anyway. There are plenty of true leaders in our community for this task, what the city must do is clear their way.